Apple finally has proper support for multiple Time Machine drives

My information about using multiple Time Machine drives remains surprisingly popular, even 4 years after posting it. I missed this one in the massive list of features, but Apple appears to have added more robust support for multiple drives in Mountain Lion!

Thanks to Macworld for highlighting it, in an interesting list of Mountain Lion system changes.

IPv6 is alive!

Having bought one of the few modems on sale in Australia that support IPv6, and being on an awesome ISP that is running an IPv6 trial, I sat down tonight and upgraded to the v6 firmware. I nearly killed the poor thing by attempting to upgrade via wifi, but it worked in the end:

spyder@rei:~$ traceroute -6
traceroute to (2404:6800:8004::68), 30 hops max, 80 byte packets
1 <snip> (<snip again>) 4.472 ms 4.460 ms 4.464 ms
2 (2001:44b8:b070::4) 43.598 ms 43.771 ms 44.941 ms
3 (2001:44b8:b070:5::1) 45.161 ms 46.352 ms 46.818 ms
4 (2001:44b8:b060:144::1) 47.995 ms * *
5 (2001:44b8:b070:1::12) 49.397 ms * *
6 2001:4860:1:1:0:1283:0:8 (2001:4860:1:1:0:1283:0:8) 51.511 ms 42.576 ms 43.136 ms
7 2001:4860::1:0:9f7 (2001:4860::1:0:9f7) 49.014 ms 49.399 ms 49.635 ms
8 2001:4860:0:1::d7 (2001:4860:0:1::d7) 46.702 ms 46.886 ms 47.692 ms
9 2404:6800:8004::68 (2404:6800:8004::68) 47.922 ms 48.542 ms 48.984 ms

It has added a small amount of latency as I’m in Brisbane and the v6 trial runs everything via Sydney, but this is very cool.

(p.s. for the technically minded – no, I’m not silly enough to put my modem’s IPv6 address in this post. It’s probably globally routable, even if it is only temporary it’s static for the duration of the Internode trial 🙂 )

The Anonymous Army

The Brisbane flood of 2011 was big news all around the world, but for me it was entirely personal. Sitting here, now, a month after the flood as I settle into my new place, I think it’s time to talk about my flood experience.

If you watched enough of the news you’d recognize the suburb of Rosalie – it was a big talking point both during the floods and on the day after as cleanup began.

My place? It was right in the deepest point of Rosalie. So yeah, we got flooded.

Now while that sucks, we didn’t lose anything significant:

  • Two empty bookcases (one mine)
  • Tall white cabinet (mine)
  • Washing machine (mine, possibly salvageable but I had already planned to throw it out or sell it cheap)
  • Large fridge (mine, again possibly salvageable but I wanted to sell it)
  • Small bar fridge
  • Large cupboard with drawers
  • TV stand
  • Desk

I have Wivenhoe to thank for the comparatively small size of that list. Things could’ve been so much worse. Wivenhoe gave us the warning on Tuesday that a flood was coming the next day; this meant we could leave work early and spend the entire afternoon moving our gear upstairs. We had already been served notice to leave our rental property at the start of February (hence wanting to sell fridge/washing machine), so the bits of packing we’d done helped immensely to get everything we cared about upstairs long before the floods hit.

I left on Tuesday evening, but one brave flatmate stayed behind to see what the initial 3m flood looked like. He parked on a nearby hill and continued to move stuff we decided we didn’t care about, but would have been a little annoying to lose. Turns out 3m was just below our ground floor level thanks to building minimum height requirements, he stuck around moving the last few things until he was ankle deep in our downstairs floor on Tuesday morning (waist deep in the driveway). We both stayed about 23km away in Kuraby with friends.

My flatmate was told to go to work on Friday because they’re on the edge of the CBD, so I tried to work from our temporary accommodation. But there were so many volunteers on the news that my friends, and then finally Ephox, told me to take the afternoon off to clean up.

I turned up at about 2pm, saw a lot of cars (being kept out of Rosalie by police) but not a whole lot of people which had me a bit worried that I’d missed the cleanup crew. The high water line was over my head in the driveway; my key didn’t work in the front door. I eventually made it through the jungle that was our back yard and started recording as I walked in the front door:

What a mess! You can’t really see it (although I did try to show it near the end) but a lot of the walls are bulging. You can see most of the items I listed above, along with plates and stuff that we have since cleaned up and kept. Everything I mentioned was destroyed; the big white cabinet, for example, collapsed as soon as they tried to move it because the back was entirely chipboard.

After I took that video I was a little bit in shock. I shifted a few things around but wasn’t really sure what to do. I eventually walked out to the street and grabbed the first volunteer that walked past to help me shift the heavy stuff.

We moved a few small things but when it came time to tackle the fridges he wandered off to grab some more help; that’s when the whirlwind was unleashed. Word must’ve got out that there was someone in need of help, because an army descended on my home.

It’s all a bit of a blur. At a rough guess, I had as many as 10 people helping me but it could’ve easily been more.

I remember being in the driveway emptying our big fridge into a bin when someone said “I’ll do that” and sent me back inside after I made sure they would keep the pyrex containers. I remember having no idea how to unlock the electric roller door until someone finally found the release lever. I remember blindly walking into the garage as the volunteer behind me gingerly checked the area for snakes before following me.

I was debating whether to try keeping my fridge but I’d already told them to throw it, next time I went outside the massive dump truck had arrived and it was being loaded onto the back along with all the other rubbish piled up in the street.

We had someone in Army camo-type gear who turned out to be an ex-reservist and not actually in the Army anymore. I think one of the helpers might’ve even been a neighbor from our block of 3 units, I can’t really be sure. I was so busy directing people and responding to “should we keep this” questions that it was hard to keep track of it all.

Once everything had been taken outside they hosed out downstairs and asked me if I had any bleach. Most of it went on the floor for general disinfecting with another hosing, but some went into a bucket and was used to wipe the walls down for me – I never expected them to do that!

They even hosed out the garage for me, and asked nothing in return. One guy was eyeing off the miscellaneous beer and alcopops that had accumulated in the bar fridge, so I told him to take it. That’s all it cost me, and this is the result:

I don’t know any of their names – any I was told were forgotten in the madness – and they never asked mine, only learning it when I was looking for bleach and a neighbor (one I know I recognized) called up the stairs asking if we needed help. I was so blown away I didn’t think to take any photos – this is the only photo I have of them, the back of the guy who I gave the alcohol to:

I feel incredibly lucky to have survived as well as I have. My deepest thanks go to all those who volunteered for the cleanup, whether in Rosalie or elsewhere in Brisbane.

They were the Anonymous Army, and they will always be remembered.

Quote of the year

… or at least, a quote good enough to make me come out of hiding before I’ve explained why things have been so quiet around here.

John Gruber on the iPhone IDE debacle:

If you are constitutionally opposed to developing for a platform where you’re expected to follow the advice of the platform vendor, the iPhone OS is not the platform for you. It never was. It never will be.

To all the people whinging about this decision by Apple, go away. You can have your fun on Android or some other platform that supports your open development philosophy. If by some fluke Apple wind up with a such a massive majority that you’re forced to come back because all the users are here, don’t expect any sympathy from us. It will have happened because Apple’s restrictions resulted in the most consistent mobile OS experience, and users decided that’s what they want.

iPhone is a closed system, and in my opinion the overall quality of the apps available is better for it. Not that the app store is full of fantastic quality at the moment – you really need an iPod or iPhone to appreciate this, but the store has an amazing amount of crap already.

However I can see the app store really going down the toilet if they let “meta-platform” (as Gruber calls them) apps onto the store. Just look at what happens when people develop cross-platform apps for PC; you either target one primary OS and optimise your UI for it at the expense of the others, or target a general use case and suffer for having a non-native UI. Yes there are exeptions, but they are rare and most of them spend stupid amounts of time implementing multiple native UIs in their cross-platform code.

Gruber has a specific example of this:

Consider, for one example, Amazon’s Kindle clients for iPhone OS and Mac OS X. The iPhone OS Kindle app is excellent, a worthy rival in terms of experience to Apple’s own iBooks. The Mac Kindle app is a turd that doesn’t look, feel, or behave like a real Mac app. The iPhone OS Kindle app is a native iPhone app, written in Cocoa Touch. The Mac Kindle app was produced using the cross-platform Qt toolkit.

Native apps are always better; I don’t use OpenOffice more because the UI pisses me off than because iWork is cheap enough that I don’t mind paying for it. Windows is the same (I can’t stand Apple’s apps ported to Windows with Mac-style keyboard shortcuts). Once you allow cross-platform UIs to enter your computing world, life just isn’t as much fun anymore.

And I want my iPhone to be fun.

[update: A related article with an appropriate quote, this time from MacWorld].

… the develop-once-run-anywhere philosophy is something that makes more sense to bean counters and development-environment vendors than it does to platform owners and discriminating users. In the ’90s we were told that Java apps would be the future of software, because you could write them once and deploy them anywhere. As someone who used to use a Java-based Mac app on an almost daily basis, let me tell you: it was a disaster. Java apps didn’t behave like Mac apps.

Twitter has invaded

We’ve had a few ephoxians on twitter for a while, but early last week we hit some kind of tipping point and now most of the engineers are actively chatting on it. For my part I joined to follow and converse with Brent’s Dev Diary, it’s a cool idea and I might do a bit of dev diary tweeting myself one day. All of a sudden though the team is tweeting about all sorts of things 🙂

I’m still exploring how I want to use this and who I want to follow, so far it’s just a few friends and some well known new media celebrities (who are, as always, responsive to fans no matter how they want to communicate) 😉

I don’t think we’re going to get too many more succumbing to the fun so if anyone is interested here’s the list:

I’m sure if there are people I’ve missed they’ll be pointed out to me shortly and I’ll probably update this post.

And the prize for most used jailbreak feature goes to…

Status Notifier. I knew that I would miss the status bar icon for new mail, but I had forgotten how stupid the silent mode toggle is. The icon for it is so natural that I forgotten it was a jailbreak-only feature! That apple still haven’t added an icon for this after three years is amazing to me.

Yes you can look at (or feel) the side of the phone to check – but the problem is I regularly forget that I have silent mode on and just stick it in my pocket without a second thought. I have missed a number of phone calls and countless SMS due to accidental silent mode. It’s ridiculous.

CalDAV beats exchange by providing the basics

Google’s exchange calendaring support for the iPhone always felt like a hack, and having tried syncing to a real exchange server I knew it was the fault of the protocol. I was excited at first to get push calendaring but the benefits just didn’t seem worth the hassles I had to put up with. And I’m very glad I decided not to try contact sync.

A bit of background: before exchange sync was available I was using plaxo to sync between my mac and google and then iTunes sync to the phone. This is important, because I knew exactly what the phone was capable of (in short, it’s very similar to iCal just with a limited set of recurring time periods). I switched to get over-the-air calendaring, but it hasn’t been pretty.

Beyond a few early problems with updating, the limitations of the exchange protocol bugged me constantly. It doesn’t support multiple alarms on one event and a few of my events wound up with a weird identifier string invited to them. The worst part though is it can’t move events between calendars; I often forget to change the calendar when creating events and pre-exchange it was an easy fix. With exchange sync, I had to delete and recreate the event when that happened.

All of that is fixed now that I’m using the caldav support added in OS 3.0. I can create multiple alarms again, after a few edits i’ve fixed up the weird events created under exchange protocol that the iPhone thought I didn’t own, and tonight when I set a calendar reminder on my mac to delay for 30 minutes I got a nice surprise when the re-reminder dinged on my phone as well. This is finally as good as direct phone syncing, and doing it over the air for instant updates isn’t costing me a MobileMe subscription.

I didn’t mention it at the time but the news of CalDAV support was my main reason for happily un-jailbreaking the phone. CalDAV worked so well with iCal that I had a feeling it would be awesome on the iPhone. And it is.

Searching to load apps has always seemed weird to me

Spotlight is coming to the iPhone. That sounds great on the surface, but I don’t think it’ll be quite as awesome for me as Apple are making out. I find search to be useful in OS X when I know exactly which app I want to load, but particularly on my iPhone that’s very rarely the case.

Maybe I just have too many toys / games to choose from but when I want to waste time with my phone I never have a specific app in mind; I spend 30 seconds browsing through the pages for something that I feel like playing. That breaks down with more than 2 pages but search won’t help at all.

Who knows, maybe I’ll just stop wasting so much time on my phone, and spotlight will become useful because I’ll know what I want to load every time.

But I doubt it 😉

Slowly weaning myself off the jailbreak

I didn’t get around to posting it here but the features in iPhone OS 3.0 are totally worth ditching my jailbreak for. There are a lot of nice little things that I’ll miss, but nothing particularly critical.

With the update due out this week, I’ve been slowly removing my jailbreak apps. First to go was categories; while subfolders was kind of nice they were a little slow to load so I wound up just never using any of the apps in them. Whatever I’ve lost in compactness of app pages I’ll make up for in the new spotlight search.

To help this, I’ve removed a bunch of apps and games I didn’t need, and used iBlank when removing categories to force the games onto page 4 leaving blank space at the bottom of pages 2 and 3. The lack of clutter actually makes things easier to find, despite the extra page swiping necessary.

At the same time I uninstalled stack. It served a similar purpose to categories, but I only regularly used one (maybe two) of the apps. Again, spotlight will pretty easily replace what I was using this app for.

From there, the only serious apps left are SBSettings and my theme. I’m really going to miss my wood shelves background and fancy round icons, the defaults are so boring. However between the lack of background tasks running and the usual optimisation that apple put into their new OS releases, it’s going to feel like a brand new phone! 😀
(not as fast as the 3G S obviously, but still an improvement).

Once jailbreak is available for 3.0 – and given the 3.0-only updates I’ve seen to jailbreak apps it can’t be far away – I’ll probably do it again. The default settings app is just useless compared to SBSettings, and theming gives me a nicely personalised phone when everyone else can only customise their lock screen picture.

I don’t think I’ll install anything else beyond that though. Even if things like background scrobbling of tracks can’t be done in OS 3.0 without the background jailbreak daemon, who really cares when 99% of what I listen to on the phone is podcasts 🙂